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Fusion: Buraka Som Sistema

Buraka Som Sistema are a fusion project from Lisbon, Portugal focused on the blending of electronic music and culture. Comprised of five creative individuals who hail from mixed backgrounds spanning Portugal, Angola and Brazil and together they are determined to bring to the world a taste of their global lifestyle. They specialise in the fusion of beats with the African Zouk and Kuduro genres and ultimately having a good time.

Founded in 2006 the group is comprised of João Barbosa (Branko), Rui Pité (DJ Riot), Andro Carvalho (Conductor), Kalaf Angelo and Blaya. They took the name Buraka, from the freguesia of Buraca in the city of Amadora, part of the Lisbon Metropolitan Area. They originally started performing as a club night, but the party grew and grew until they became a full on band. Intent on having fun, their infamous live shows are a spectacle to behold, they’ve matured and developed the confidence to go out on a stage and completely do their own thing. Having just released their latest album ‘Buraka’ the group have gone deeper into their own sound than ever before. With exciting new rhythms, genre crossovers and minimal outside recruitment, it’s a reflection of who they’ve grown to become as artists.

We sat down with Branko & Kalaf before a high-energy performance at Sónar in Barcelona to talk about fusion in music, find out how they have grown together as a group and what it’s like developing a new clothing line…

You recently premiered a documentary film ‘Off The Beaten Track’ – it must be amazing to help shine a light on the heritage and culture of your home place to the world?

K: People seem to have been enjoying the film, we’ve got great feedback and our fans have been posting great things on Instagram and Facebook.

The film itself, how long did it take to put together? Did the director (Joao Pedro Moreira) go around with you individually? How did it pan out?

K: Joao is a long time collaborator and close friend of ours. He also produced the video for our track ‘Hangover’ (BaBaBa) video.

B: It had to be somebody with a deep personal connection because otherwise it would have been weird. He had the right rhythm and attitude for the project. We didn’t want a camera team coming in because people wouldn’t relax if you’re filming somewhere like the studio in Mozambique or Venezuela, it needs to feel organic.

K: The whole thing around took two years to produce. There was no time frame on it, he was happy with the footage that he had and then he put it together.

You’re credited for originating the term Zouk Bass | Progressive Kuduro – can you explain this sound?

K: Lisbon has a huge African community from Angola and Cape Verde. Zouk is something that originated in the Caribbean and sort of evolved and connected with African communities around the world. We wanted to play Zouk and showcase it in our sets, but we needed figure out a way to do it. It connects with Downtempo and the whole Jamaican influence. It’s all part of the same family. So we decided to have a bit of fun with the sound and it became an organic movement of sorts, we never pushed it. It’s fusion essentially.

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Buraka Som Sistema (L-R): DJ Riot, Blaya, Klaf, Conductor & Branko

Fusion in music is difficult to get right. When drawing from various world genres and forms of music do you find that you have to be careful to use the right ‘ingredients’ in cultivating a new sound that’s authentic and not spoil the original work?

B: Yes, but in the end music is about real life and for you as an artist it’s about showcasing something that nobody has done yet, not just to be different but to fill in a gap in music. For example with the Zouk thing for us, there are artists travelling the world but on an African club environment, never in an underground venue. It was always made with a different attitude. We felt that we needed it to be part of music for ourselves. When you do it for yourself like that, you’re doing it because you want to create something and it’s either going get picked up on or not. Buraka Som Sistema started as a club-night before we were a band. We were just doing edits and remixes of Kuduro tracks. The night started to become bigger and then the club shut down we realised the potential of it and decided to start the band.

Have you got any major goals or projects set out for the next couple of years?

B: Mostly it’s about developing our label, Enchufada which has always been the core of our working system. We’ve just put out an album ‘Buraka’ which features people from within our label network. Our main project is to develop the brand alongside the Buraka sound as global club music under one bubble.

Can you give me some more details about the artists involved?

K: It’s all new and low-key acts, no big names really. It’s people that we identify with who have the same attitude as ourselves.

Is there a concept behind the album?

B: There was an initial idea that we needed to focus on ourselves and the people in our group because we’ve know each other very well. It was about making something for everybody but also ourselves. It’s a weird world and Kalaf said it already but the level of maturesness is playing it’s part here. We feel like we’ve got something now. We’ve travelled and got all this new music, we know it’s not about the hype and we’re not trying to make the freshest thing in town. We just want to make cool music with everything that we’ve learned along the way. The album’s called ‘Buraka’ and it sounds like Buraka.

Asides from that are you working on anything else?

K: The two of us have launched our own clothing brand – Rest Of The World. Right now the clothes are only available to buy on the Enchufada web-store but we’ve selected a couple of selling points so it should be available from various points after the Summer.

What do you think of Gilles Peterson’s Brazilian Sonzeira compilation?

B: There’s a big connection for us there, and obviously when you see a Brazilian compilation it’s pretty cool, but we’ve known this stuff for a long time! We tend to focus more on kids making beats and electronic music.

Interview: Conor McTernan